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July 2013

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No Nationality, No Future: Gender Discrimination and Statelessness

In 29 countries around the world—11 of them in the Middle East and North Africa—women cannot transfer their nationality to their children, or to their non-national spouses. Discriminatory nationality laws render people stateless—and severely threaten their access to healthcare, education, jobs and even marriage. Gender discrimination in nationality laws is literally tearing families apart and women’s inability to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses is putting a huge financial, psychological and physical strain on family life.

In late June, the Women's Refugee Commission and the Statelessness Program at Tilburg University  (Netherlands) launched a new report, Our Motherland, Our Country: Gender Discrimination and Statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa.

We recommend that governments take immediate steps to amend their nationality laws to allow women the same rights as men to pass on their nationality to their children and non-national spouses, with retroactive effect. We are also advocating for governments to provide access to basic rights for those affected by gender discrimination in nationality laws, in particular, access to education, health care, employment, identity and travel documents.

Additionally, we have used our findings to create two short films on statelessness, and have published a photo essay and had an article in the Huffington Post. Check out the report and accompanying multi-media materials below!

Read the report, “Our Motherland, Our Country: Gender Discrimination and Statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa”.

Watch the films: “Our Mother’s Country: Our Country”, “No Nationality. No Future”.

Check out the photo essay.

Read Executive Director Sarah Costa's article in the Huffington Post.


Refugee Teens Need Family Planning, Too

Adolescent girls are at higher risk of maternal death than any other group: the risk of pregnancy-related death is twice as high for girls aged 15-19 and five times higher for girls aged 10-14 than for women in their twenties. In humanitarian settings, child-bearing risks are compounded for adolescents, due to increased exposure to forced sex and reduced availability of and sensitivity to adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. At the same time, adolescents in humanitarian settings have similar needs and desire for sexual and reproductive health information and services as their peers in non-crisis settings.

Our new report, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Humanitarian Settings: An In-depth Look at Family Planning Services, based on research undertaken with Save the Children in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), maps SRH programs for displaced adolescents that have been implemented since 2009 and documents good practices.

Our research found that a mere 37 programs focused on the SRH needs of 10- to 19-year-olds in humanitarian settings since 2009. Only 21 of these programs offered at least two methods of contraception, none of them in acute onset emergency settings.

The report features three successful adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs in humanitarian settings: Profamilia Colombia, Adolescent Reproductive Health Network (ARHN) in Thailand, and Straight Talk Foundation in Uganda.

We recommend that donors increase support for holistic, comprehensive, flexible adolescent SRH programming, and that humanitarian organizations provide integrated and adolescent-friendly SRH services that seek to engage adolescents in a meaningful way.

For more information on adolescent SRH, click here.


One step closer: Immigration reform bill passes in Senate

On June 27, the Senate made history when it approved a significant overhaul of our immigration laws. The strong bipartisan vote, 68 to 32, represented a long-overdue victory for human rights and due process that would put millions of women, children and families on a pathway to citizenship. While the bill is not perfect, the Senate vote is a big step forward for immigrant rights.

We took a lead role in advocating for the particular rights of women and children, and the bill includes many crucial protections for immigrant women, children and families that the Women's Refugee Commission has fought for since 1995. The legislation will increase due process protections for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable migrants, and recognizes the unique and important contributions of immigrant women to our communities and economy.

Despite these victories, the bill contains some serious concessions and gaps. We are concerned about the vast expansion of border enforcement, and the steep fees, penalties and limitations to the family visa system that will have detrimental consequences for immigrant women and children. Nevertheless, the bill is, overall, good news for immigrant women and children.

We are now preparing to continue our advocacy as the House takes up immigration reform. Read our press release here.


Sanctuary and Sustenance: World Refugee Day 2013

On June 20, World Refugee Day, the Women's Refugee Commission paused to pay tribute to the incredible resilience of the 45 million people around the world who have been displaced by conflict and crisis. We joined with the International Rescue Committee, the European Union, UNHCR New York and Art Works Projects at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York for a memorable celebration of this important day.  

The evening began with a formal reception for humanitarian partners inside the Cathedral, featuring speeches and commentary by leaders from participating organizations. Sarah Costa, Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, advocated specifically for increased attention to the plight of refugees with disabilities, as well as for displaced women, youth and children who have experienced sexual violence.

During the reception, guests in attendance had the opportunity to view the International Rescue Committee’s “Hidden Lives” photography exhibit, premiering that evening. The collection of over-sized photographs by Andrew McConnell documents the lives of urban refugees in eight cities across four continents. It will be on public view from June 21 through August 30.

The event culminated in a lively musical performance, and a viewing of ArtWorks Project’s Sanctuary & Sustenance, a multimedia projection of photography, film, music and words created in celebration of the day. As the daylight faded, the audience watched from the courtyard as videos and images of refugees were projected on the walls of the Cathedral in a moving tribute to the journey of refugees from conflict to asylum.

For more information on Artworks and the Sanctuary and Sustenance Project visit: www.artworksprojects.org/sanctuaryandsustenance.